School offers dental care for families in need

Photo+by+Kaitlan+Galgon%0AThe+new+in-school+dental+program+focuses+on+providing+preventative+services+to+low+income+WHS+students.+Students+who+are+uninsured+or+underinsured+are+not+turned+away+with+the+Bridging+Brighter+Smiles+program.+The+new+program+will+help+to+alter+the+role+that+local+dentists+play+in+supporting+the+low+income+students+in+the+community.+

Photo by Kaitlan Galgon The new in-school dental program focuses on providing preventative services to low income WHS students. Students who are uninsured or underinsured are not turned away with the Bridging Brighter Smiles program. The new program will help to alter the role that local dentists play in supporting the low income students in the community.

Waunakee students who have a financial need have the option to have a dentist appointment at school thanks to the Bridging Brighter Smiles program.
Bridging Brighter Smiles is a nonprofit organization that provides dental care to students on ForwardHealth (which is also known as BadgerCare), a state healthcare program for the poor. “While medical care is typically not difficult to obtain with [BadgerCare] because the reimbursement is so low, and is often extremely difficult to find dental providers who accept it, leaving many families without access to dental care. Some families will drive up to one and a half hours to find a dentist who accepts it,” said district nurse Sarah Nordloh. “There’s missed school time if they do have to travel far away to get dental care.”
Bridging Brighter Smiles solves both problems by bringing dental services to schools and charging BadgerCare for its services. “If students are uninsured or underinsured, [the program] will not turn a student away,” said Nordloh. Because the program is funded through BadgerCare, the school district does have to pay to have its services.
Bridging Brighter Smiles does work all over Wisconsin in many different school districts, including several districts in the Madison area. Last year was the first year that the program did work in the Waunakee Community School District.

Photo by Kaitlan Galgon
The new in-school dental program focuses on providing preventative services to low income WHS students. Students who are uninsured or underinsured are not turned away with the Bridging Brighter Smiles program. The new program will help to alter the role that local dentists play in supporting the low income students in the community.

The program came to Waunakee after Nordloh was contacted by Caroline Arndt, the program director. Dentists come into schools for an appointment with students and provide preventative services, such as: screenings, cleanings, fluoride varnish (prevents decay), and dental sealants (cavity prevention). “It’s not supposed to be a dental home replacement, we still encourage them to have their own dentist because they don’t do X-rays or cavity fillings,” said Nordloh.
Dentists in the Waunakee community were supporting students in need prior to Bridging Brighter Smiles’ presence in the district. Waunakee provider Midwest Dental offers “Give Kids a Smile Day” once every year, where they help to provide services to students who cannot access these services. The introduction of the Bridging Brighter Smiles changes the role that local dentists play in supporting kids.
Bridging Brighter Smiles provides preventative care and not restorative care. Preventative care includes what many regular dentist appointments include, such as cleanings. Restorative care is care that works on fixing a problem after it happened, such as getting an infection or abscess and needing a root canal or filling in cavities.
“Before we had this, we did not have good dental care for a lot of the kids in need. For example… I would get calls from the school social worker saying [a student had a dental problem]. What I did then is I would call dentists in Waunakee and beg them to take students in. And they were very super receptive to it. But we didn’t have a good system,” said Nordloh.
Nordloh would try to find dentists who were willing to provide services for these families that could not afford them. These calls were about providing restorative care.
The Bridging Brighter Smiles program aims to prevent students from needing to hope that a dentist is able to provide the services by preventing any dental health problems. “I still call dentists to see if they can provide fillings and things, and they’re still pretty receptive, but instead of using them for prevention, I like using them for restorative work,” said Nordloh.
Nordloh speaks with financially disadvantaged families to connect them with services that the district provides. She frequently works with the school social worker to provide students with services.
She says that her goal is to keep students healthy and able to come to school. “Waunakee is a wealthy community, but I think that some people are unaware that there is a population that has a strong need in Waunakee, as well. And they should not be forgotten,” said Nordloh.